Cancer cells grow in the body out of control. Cancer is generally named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later.

Cervical Cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer, and some cancers of the vulva, penis, anus, and oropharynx(back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) are also caused by HPV. HPV can infect the mouth and throat and cause cancers of the oropharynx.

HPV mainly occurs through sexual contact, shortly after sexual activity. Cervical cancer is one of them. It is the second most common cancer in women. Many women die suffering from cervical cancer especially in low and middle income countries. It takes 15 to 20 years cervical cancer to develop in women with a normal immune system. Women with a weak immune system it can take 5 to 10 years to get infected.

GENITAL HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS (HPV) is the common sexually transmitted infection in the world. More than 40 HPV types can infect the genital areas of men and women, including the skin of the penis, vulva (area outside the vagina), and anus and the lining of the vagina, cervix, and rectum. These types can also infect the lining of the mouth and throat.

High Risk and Low Risk HPV Types

HPV types are often referred to as “low-risk” (wart-causing) or“high-risk” (cancer-causing)types. 13 HPV types can cause cervical cancer and one of these types cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and certain head and neck cancers (oropharynx).When people are infected with HPV, they don’t realize it, because if they have a good immune system they get rid of it within two years, both those who are suffering from high-risk and low-risk types. HPV, is common in both men and women.50 year old women at some point of time in their lives will be infected with HPV.

How a High Risk HPV Infection can Cause Cancer

If anyone  is infected with high-risk HPV and if their body  immune system can not get rid of it the infection, it turns normal cells into abnormal cells and then causes cancer. Women with high-risk HPV on the cervix will develop into cervical-cancer, and the infection continues and infects the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, and change the cell called precancers. If they are detected early and removed we can stop the development of  cancer, if regular screening is done and treated this can be prevented.  Vaccines also protect against HPV types.

 Warts, like genital warts can cause HPV.. They are called low-risk HPV and do not cause cancer and can be treated. If  they are removed early or stopped growing, the risk of getting cancer can also be arrested.

Common Types of HPV:

HPV 6 AND HPV 11 are low -risk types of HPV and are linked to genital warts, these can be treated. Whereas, HPV 16 and HPV 18are high-risk type of HPV, though no symptoms are noticed, can bring about a change in the cervix and cause cervical cancer.

 For women above 30 years a Pap smear is done to check whether they have a low-risk or high-risk type of HPV. If the test is positive that the person has HPV, it may not   develop to cervical cancer, but there are chances that it can develop in future. 

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer:

  • Pain in the leg, pelvic and back.
  • Weight loss, tiredness, loss of appetite.
  • Vaginal discomfort and bad-smell from discharge.
  • Swelling of leg.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Unusual bleeding.

Cervical Cancer Risks Reasons:

  • Having sex before 16 years or within a year of starting periods,
  • -Having multiple sex partners,
  • Taking birth control pills, for more than five years, 
  • Smoking cigarettes,
  • Having a weak immune system,
  • Having sexually transmitted disease,(STD).

Cervical Cancer Treatment:

Cryosurgery –for this treatment the cancer cells are frozen.

Laser surgery—the cancer cells are burnt.

Conization / Cone biopsy—a small piece of the cervix part, which has cancer is removed.

Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the most common ones. If the cancer is only on the surface of the cervix, the doctor can remove or destroy the cancerous cells with a procedure called LEEP. If the disease has gone into deeper layers of the cervix but has not spread to the other parts of the body, with surgery the tumour can be removed. If it has spread into the uterus hysterectomy is suggested. 

Cervical Cancer Home Care:

A good nutritional diet is one of the best cares. One tends to  lose appetite during treatment, so eating enough calories and proteins, to get strength and energy can handle the treatment better.

  • Mild physical activity
  • Enough rest at night
  • Quit smoking
  • During treatment stop alcohol
  • Regular pelvic exams and pap smears helps
  • Best is to follow the advice of the treating doctor

There is no routine test for men to check for high- risk HPV strains that can cause cancer. To diagnose genital warts in men, the doctor visually checks a man’s genital area to see if warts are present. HPV types of the genital area in men can lead to cancer, this is also very rare, especially for those who have a good immune system. The risk of anal cancer in more in gays and bisexual men than those men who have sex only with women. Generally, in men most of the HPV cancers are in the back of the throat, back of the tongue, and in tonsils. A pap test is done by collecting cells from the anus in gays and bisexual men. There is no specific treatment for men. A cream prescribed by the doctor can be applied or the doctor removes the warts by freezing or surgically.

Treatment for HPV Cancer:

In the last 15 years, there is a rise in HPV cancers of the throat, ie oropharynx region, which includes tonsils and the base of the tongue because of excess use of tobacco and alcohol. If oropharynx is not treated properly it might spread to lymph nodes or to the other organs of the body. Luckily HPV related oropharynx cancers respond well to radiation treatment which is combined with chemotherapy. It is also said that there is no cure for this virus. Most of the HPV goes away by itself, within two years. If it stays in the body for decades then it might cause these oral cancers.

Awareness on HPV Among College Students:

A questionnaire- based survey(questions were- incidence of cervical cancer in India, HPV infection and its treatment, Pharmacology of HPV vaccine and so on) revealed that girls had more knowledge about cervical cancer than boys. However, knowledge about the types of HPV and vaccines was poor.  Students with biology had more knowledge than non-biology students. All students agreed that girls should get vaccinated against HPV. So, there is a need for educational and awareness campaigns to bring to light HPV immunization programmers for the control of cervical cancer in India, among medical students and women at large.

This is the first time in the history of medicine that a cancer can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccines are Gardasil r 9, Gardasil r and Cervarix r, which can be used both by boys and girls. The two vaccines available in India are Gardasil TM marked  by Merck and a bivalent vaccine Cevrarix TM marked by Glaxo Smith Kline. This is a big advancement in the fight against cervical cancer.Though the pharmaceutical companies have marketed the vaccine, the awareness is still very low and has left myths and misconceptions in the minds of the consumer.